CBC decision-makers shortchanging local viewers
Jonathan Crowe Conception Bay South
Wednesday, In the middle of a pandemic, the CBC quietly turned out the lights on “Here and Now” and other supper-hour news shows across the country. CBC journalists were issued directives from their bosses to not tweet or complain publicly about it. Twenty years ago — even 10 years ago — local CBC managers would have risked their jobs to fight back against an order to stay off the air. Instead, they spent the afternoon trying to shape and control the message. Viewers expecting local news got cookie-cutter network coverage of the COVID-19 crisis. They were not able to see stories about their community told to them by the familiar faces they’ve come to know and trust over the years. The CBC brass will tell you that CBC Newfoundland and Labrador will be all over the latest news — online, on radio and on what they’re branding a “core live breaking news service.” The “core breaking news service” will reflect just a smidgen of what’s going on in Newfoundland and Labrador and it won’t be delivered by the familiar, trusted and talented journalists who work in the local newsroom. This decision is a preview of things to come. My former colleagues tell me there are the rumblings of budget cuts in the air. I fear that by the time this pandemic is over, CBC management will be able to justify the decision to centralize or cut local supper-hour programming entirely. It will be an easy decision to justify — CBC’s once loyal local viewers will finally have migrated en masse to the competition. What a loss that will be! Imagine a provincial media landscape without Anthony Germain holding a politician to account on live television. Imagine no more investigative stories from Ariana Kelland or Rob Antle, or no more weather with Ashley Brauweiler. “Here and Now” still breaks stories and has provided a great service to this province for decades. I fear it will soon disappear without a whimper. I worked for “Here and Now” for 30 years. It consumed me. I was honoured that, each night, I was one of the journalists trusted to tell this province stories about its own people and its own issues. I know what journalists are going through in the local CBC newsroom right now. They are gutted that they can’t tell you your stories live on air at 6 o’clock. I am writing this for all my former colleagues who’ve been muzzled and all of you who still care about seeing the stories about this place — the place we all love, the place where we all live. Cookie-cutter news doesn’t fly in this province. We want our news back.